Project Runway 4: Episode 8 Preview

>> Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Hello my fellow fashion vanguards, and welcome to this week's Project Runway preview. Bravo's getting stingy, comparatively, with what they're giving us in advance--or, it might better be said, they are getting trickier. Still, there are hints and clues in this week's batch of teaser videos, so let's get to it, shall we?

First, we'll start with the episode name: "En Garde!" For some, those words may bring to mind images of white-clad fencers, epees, and ripostes. For others brought up on Warner Bros. cartoons (like me), those words may conjure images of Daffy Duck. ("Ho! Haha! Guard! Turn! Parry! Dodge! Spin! Ha! Thrust!")

Daffy and Porky: Two classics of American design.

My guess though is that the fencing reference is a ruse this week--or else a double allusion to two things that have nothing to do with fencing. First, we see a couple of designers sparring with each other--namely Rami and Sweet P. In that sense, "En Garde!" is fair warning for each to be on guard against each other.

The more subtle allusion of course is the fashion one--"garde" as in avant-garde. You'll pardon me while I go all high school newspaper on you and offer up a definition in my lead. This from Wikipedia:

Avant-garde in French means "front guard", "advance guard", or "vanguard".[1] The term is commonly used in French, English, and German to refer to people or works that are experimental or innovative, particularly with respect to art, culture, and politics. Avant-garde represents a pushing of the boundaries of what is accepted as the norm or the status quo, primarily in the cultural realm.

That title, plus that definition, plus the hints we get about the challenge this week from the teasers, all add up to challenge in which the designers must create innovative, experimental fashion that pushes the boundaries of what is accepted. In fact, as Tim Gunn tells the designers in one preview, "this look does not have to be practical." Doesn't have to be practical? Wow. We're going way beyond the question of wearability then, as recently discussed over at Blogging Project Runway. It looks like we really are going to get that parade float challenge Michael Kors and Zac Posen talked about in the Hershey's challenge.

Duchamp's infamous 1917 avant-garde piece, Fountain, which is in fact a urinal. This form of artistic expression is not recommended for this week's contestants.

A further reveal comes from television listings, which savvy viewers have discovered often give one-line weekly challenge spoilers. This week's SPOILER: The fashions the designers create must be inspired by their models' hair styles. Hmm. Do I smell some extra-special TRESemme Hair Salon product placement this week?

It's clear this week is a team-up episode as well. We're down to eight designers, and the episode pairs them up into four teams. Piecing together runway scenes and workroom scenes, it looks like the teams are Sweet P and Rami, Kit and Ricky, Jillian and Victorya, and Chris and Christian. With those pairings it's not too far a leap to guess that these are randomly selected. In one preview Heidi comes out onto the runway with Ye Olde Velveteen Bag, which might be used for that purpose, or for the selection of models.

In almost every clip, Rami and Sweet P. are shown having trouble working together. What's the beef? We don't have any more clue than Rami not liking "the way she's working." All the other teams appear to be getting along just ducky, with the Chris/Christian pairing appearing to be where the party's at. That's until Tim comes into the workroom and lays down a bomb--something we don't hear but that clearly rattles many of the contestants. Some have speculated he's announcing this week will be a double "aufing," but I doubt we're going to see that. Jillian's reaction, in the moment, is to ask, "And we have to do all this by the end of tomorrow?" That seems to indicate more work or a tighter deadline than they had anticipated.

I have a wild guess here--one that might explain both the Rami/P problems and the reactions to Tim's announcement. What if the teams are told that the lead designer may not, from that moment on, do any of the physical work to build the dress? That would mean that only one person could cut, sew, hem, fit--all of that--while the lead designer had to step back and watch the dress come together. It's an intriguing idea, I think, and one that would make the judging very interesting. One team member would be judged solely on the design, while the other would be judged solely on the construction, obviating the usual "only the lead designer is in danger" complaint. Building a complicated, "impractical" dress would be quite a chore for one person alone, especially with the designers standing over their shoulders telling them how things should be done.

The only thing that seems to controvert my guess is the Kit/Ricky pairing, where we see Kit making adjustments to a dress on the dressform while Ricky stands worthlessly nearby, complaining to us in a voice-over that he doesn't approve of the fabric and color choices Kit made, but "because we're telling Kit's story, that's the story." That seems to point to Kit as the team leader, and the clips show Ricky as a passive bystander.

And "we're telling Kit's story?" Yes, it's another of those "make up a story to explain your creation" challenges, like the Season 3 challenge where Angela made up some crack-headed story about an French art school principal having a birthday party or something to explain some arts and crafts bubble-skirt debacle she threw together. And considering that this classic disaster was considered avant-garde . . .

. . . I'm anticipating some real doozys from this challenge.

If I'm right about the overseer/worker relationship, the team leaders appear to be Rami, Kit, Jillian, and Christian, with the other four, Sweet P, Ricky, Victorya, and Chris, being the worker bees. If not, Sweet P might be the leader of that team, as she's shown running around Mood with a sheet of paper that looks like her version of a color palette, not Rami's. Their problems then might not stem from her slow or difficult work style, but instead her lack of leadership or vision, at least in Rami's view.

Still, Rami's the one defending the design for his team when Tim Gunn comes around, portending doom with a "This worries me." Tim wants Rami to push the envelope. Rami thinks the envelope's pushed far enough, telling Tim, "But you've never seen me do corsets." Rami seems to be missing the point of avant-garde. The idea is not merely to go above and beyond what you've done in the past--it's to go above and beyond what everyone has done in the past. Corsets, my Israeli Palestinian friend, have been done. (Sorry about getting your nationality wrong, Rami--I misunderstood! My sincere apologies!)

This is not avant-garde.

The other team having trouble is the Kit/Ricky team. Or perhaps I should say, the other person having trouble is Ricky. We barely see Kit in the teasers, but Ricky gets a lot of play, even telling us as he stands on the runway for the judging, "I don't want to go home." And yes, there is a tear in his eye. If this is a separate designer/builder challenge, Ricky would be the builder in this equation, and we've seen before that his construction often leaves much to be desired.

Like a zit inside your nose, Ricky is painful and hard to get rid of.

The best clue to those in danger comes from the second of the Bravo/Blogger videos. Four people are on the firing line, and it's just who you'd expect from the other teasers: Sweet P, Rami, Kit, and Ricky.

Conventional PR wisdom says that the leader on a team is by far the most vulnerable, but if this week does in fact divide the challenge between design and construction, each person is as vulnerable as his or her partner. Thus the question becomes is the design of Rami and P's dress worse than its execution? Is Kit's design worse than Ricky's construction? With what little we have to go on, I'm guessing that among those final, bottom four, it's Rami's conservative design and Ricky's poor construction that stand out as the worst elements. At the risk of being wrong about the aufing twice in a row with the same pick, I predict that this week will (finally!) be Ricky's time to go home. He's fooled me before, and Kit is definitely a dark horse surprise candidate to go home like Kevin last week (say it ain't so!), but Ricky's my pick and I'm sticking to it.

Damn I'm good. Especially when I don't have to design something a real woman would wear.

The two best teams appear to be the four designers standing to the right of the stage, as that's the direction Kors and Co. seem to be directing all their accolades. Chris smiles, Jillian smiles, and Victorya, off screen, even responds to one of Kors' compliments with, "So we should win! Ha-ha!" At the same time, a contest where wearability and practicality don't matter clearly favors Team Drag Star, aka Chris and Christian. Christian's got the avant, and Chris knows how to go large. So who is the most fashion-forward of the bunch? Even if they consider the design and the construction separately, I'm guessing it's the winning dress's designer who will take home the immunity, and I predict the winner of the avant-garde challenge will be Christian. It'll be an almost-worst-to-first story, and play to Christian's strengths--namely making fashion we've never seen before and never want to see again.

If you're playing Fantasy Runway at home, things are a little confusing this week. The question is, "In Season 2, the designers designed for a beauty pageant winner. It was . . . ?" The problem here is that the beauty pageant winner episode was in Season 3, not Season 2--unless I'm missing something here. In season three, Kayne won by designing a winning dress for Tara Conner, the then reigning Miss USA. The dress would go on to be worn in the Miss Universe pageant, which she did not win. Thus the only listed pageant she did win was Miss USA, and that should be your answer.

Unless I'm forgetting something from Season 2? Was Iman perhaps a former Miss Universe? No, wait--I seem to recall Jay McCarroll is a former Miss Florida . . .

Miss Florida 2001

As for Best Hair this week . . . how can there be one if the designers have to base their designs off the hair designs the models already have!?


Jyesika January 16, 2008 at 10:37 AM  

Thanks for the write up. I have to say I cringe at the idea of splitting the designers, one worker bee and one visionary. That sounds messy and I'm wishfully hoping you are not correct (although you seem to be relatively spot on in general). It makes me think that we could loose another talent (Kit) over the riff raff (Ricki or Sweet P) if they really do split the designers as you've predicted.
(Sad to mention Sweet P in the loser bunch because I think she's charming and adorable.)
Also, thanks for commenting on the fantasy runway thing, I've been going back and forth with Miss USA or Miss Universe for several days now. I'm going to go with your answer.

Tbone January 16, 2008 at 11:36 AM  

I don't know, Alan. The Elves have never strayed from the CW regarding team challenges. Why start now?

I think you are right about who the team leaders are and I also think you are right about the winning and losing designs. But it will be the leaders, again, getting the guts and the glory.

Chris for the win and Kit for the auf.

Jane January 16, 2008 at 11:38 AM  

Rami is not Israeli, he's Palestinian. A HUGE difference.

Alan January 16, 2008 at 11:47 AM  


Yikes! That is a huge difference! I misunderstood, and I'll change that immediately. Thanks for letting me know.


I hope you are wrong, my friend, (At least about Kit) but I know in my heart my predictions were, again, partially based on wishful thinking.


I agree with you about Sweet P. Like her as a person, but she and Ricky are clearly, to me at least, the two weakest designers left. But will a team competition mean both of them survive . . . again!? And I hope I haven't steered you wrong with the Miss USA answer--it's a confusing Fantasy Runway question this week to be sure.

Tom in KC January 16, 2008 at 11:53 AM  

I don't know WHY I think this, but I have a hunch that Tim's "surprise" is the very fact that they will be working in teams.

Is it possible that it begins as an individual challenge and then Tim announces that the two designers have to band together and make one garment half-way through the challenge? I re-watched the preview, and it supports this wacky theory. Can't wait 'til tonight....

Alan January 16, 2008 at 12:00 PM  

@tom in kc:

I don't know. Christian says, "WE need a ton of fabric," (emphasis mine) before they head to Mood, as though they are already paired up, and when Tim calls them over they are already standing near the folks who we know to be their partners. I debated that--whether the revelation would be "Hey! You have to combine your looks and work together!"--but I vetoed it based on Christian's comment, the placement of the people BEFORE Tim's announcement, and Jillian's reaction, which seemed to be more of a "we'll never have time to finish!" kind of thing than, "I have to work with HER!?"

I could be way off here though. Wouldn't be the first time . . .

Laura K January 16, 2008 at 12:46 PM  

Remember last season Nazri was featured in the TRESemme ad after Michael won the Icon Challenge? Maybe the surprise announcement is something along those lines...

Alan January 16, 2008 at 1:01 PM  


Possibly. But the designers don't seem to be giving each other high-fives after Tim's announcement--they seem to be really pissed! Then again, with clever editing they may have spliced in the designer's reactions to learning they have to work with others with Tim's announcement, making it seem more dramatic than it really is.

They've certainly kept us more in the dark about this one tonight--which is refreshing, I have to say. And I'm also beginning to worry that TBone is right about Kit being gone, and wondering exactly how I'm going to get TPTB to understand that when good designers are aufed simply because they assumed authority and took chances while weaker designers skate through because they DON'T do those things, the whole show is hurt. I'd rather watch good designers duke it out in the late rounds than watch weak also-rans argue and cry . . .

tom in kc January 16, 2008 at 2:21 PM  

All this varied speculation has me agreeing with Alan -- this is possibly the "best editing of a preview" that Bravo has ever done.

tom in kc January 16, 2008 at 3:51 PM  

Okay, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Project Runway previews don't mix.

Has anyone else noticed on the preview that Christian is obviously dubbed when he says "I feel really strongly about this challenge...." (the words "this challenge" seem to be dubbed/looped). WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN!?!?

I'm going back to my original prediction -- that the team aspect is the surprise twist, and that it's sprung on the designers after work has begun.

Oy....five more hours....

House January 17, 2008 at 12:41 PM  

Have you guys been to this page:

The comic is pretty funny and the site is just the right amount of snarky goodness for PR.


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